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Old 12-31-2008, 12:01 PM
Location: Back in Dallas Texas where I belong!
269 posts, read 835,016 times
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Hi, can anyone give me any advise on where to start? It would be me and my 12 year old son. We would want to go to Machu Piccua. The packaged places cost thousands of dollars per person, is there a less expensive way, yet safe for us to travel?
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Old 12-31-2008, 03:36 PM
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
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Hi. My trip to Peru last year was a 6-week adventure, which I planned carefully by myself with extensive, deep internet research, but kept loose in terms of extra days in many places, especially after rising in altitude -- in case of bad weather, severe altitude sickness, revolutionary activities by the Shining Path, strikes such as strikes on the monopoly railroad system, and so forth.

I used a travel agency headquartered in Lima with branches or affiliates in Arequipa and Cusco (foreigners sometimes spell it Cuzco), because the more I studied the more I realized that Peru is a third-world country in terms of income, infrastructure and "comfort", tourists sometimes disappear there, and I decided it would really be worth it to have a local staff who knew where I was supposed to be all the time, could change or repair reservations if necessary, and could get me out of trouble if trouble, of all sorts, were to happen.

I'm sure your son probably means everything to you, and you'd do anything necessary to ensure the highest measure of safety for him and for yourself.

Peru is in the southern hemisphere, so their seasons are opposite to ours. (Wait til you see the moon move "backwards" across the sky ) Their summer in Dec., Jan. and Feb. is less expensive for lodgings, but the heat and humidity can be killing, many areas drown in rain, and since most tourists don't go to Peru at that time of year, many restaurants, hotels, churches, ancient sites, etc. are closed. Late April through early October will give you both better weather and full resources. I went in April and early May; warm and humid in Lima, chilly in the Andes, okay very chilly (no central heating anywhere if you're in B&Bs), rain half a day here and there.

Question: have you and your son ever been at high elevation?
-- Machu Picchu is at approximately 6,800ft.
-- Aguas Calientes, the only town at Machu Picchu where you would stay overnight, is at approximately 8,000ft. (Yes, Machu Picchu is not "up" and is not the highest point in the Andes, or in Peru, as people seem to think.)
-- Cusco, at 11,500ft, is the city you must fly to from Lima, Arequipa or Juliaca (or from Bolivia, Brazil or Columbia) in order to travel to and through the Sacred Valley in order to get to Machu Picchu, is at 11,500ft.
-- Most Cusco flights from or to Lima stop at Juliaca, at the northen end of Lake Titicaca near some of the most sacred areas of Peru in southern Peru up in the Andes, the crew will let local air into the plane for a half-hour. Juliaca is at 12,500ft and made me start to pass out just sitting calmly in my seat in the plane, breathing the air.
-- The elevation of the Sacred Vally itself, the agricultural "breadbasket" of the Andes, goes from 11,500ft (Cusco) to about 8,500ft (Ollantaytambo).

There are many prevention methods and treatment methods, both natural and laboratory-chemical, for altitude sickness. The most important thing to remember is that when the headaches start, go DOWN in altitude because the brain is being starved for oxygen. That is a severe, urgent emergency, and the only treatment is to immediately get to much lower elevations.

Yes, you're right that it's expensive to to go Peru: getting there (American Airlines from Miami is, bottom line, really the safest, most reliable and most experienced way), getting anywhere there (much greater distances than I had expected, and often only one way to get anywhere); lodging comes in all prices, but the lowest-prices are for hostels used by European teenagers, and robbery is often rife in such places; food is inexpensive, fabulous street food is grilled everywhere, eat what you see the local Indians eating.

DO NOT EAT LETTUCE ON ANYTHING. "Sin lechuga, por favor." If anything is served to you on lettuce, eat the parts that do not touch the lettuce. Peruvian lettuce has microbiologicals that their intestines are accustomed to but that will give you severe intestinal horrors which last a long time. You should carry on your person a good food/digestion-related prescription antibiotic, from your family doctor, that has a proven track record with you and one ditto for your son.

Peruvisn taxis, in cities or towns, are a fantastic bargain. They don't have great springs, and they're fairly old cars, but the price is very low, the drivers will go anywhere that isn't suicidal, and the drivers are like all Peruvians, warm, friendly, trying out a few words of English, eager to help and make a good impression for Peru.

Machu Picchu, and the entire Andes, is quite a spiritual experience for those whose hearts and minds are open, and who know something about what they're walking into. 12 years old might be a bit young for such a profound encounter... but you know your son. Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Chinchero, Pisaq, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Mt. Salcantay, Mt. Auzungate if you get that far south of Cusco, the whole Sacred Valley between Cusco and the approach to Machu Picchu, the cloud forest around Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu itself -- these aren't really "sightseeing" places, they're experiences, deep and moving, entirely sacred to the people of the Peruvian Andes.

Would you like some website links from which I did good research? To deal with the expense and the profundity, you might consider planing with your son to make the trip in another year or two, both of you on the team that's saving money, doing research, studying, learning a lot of the fascinating history and present of Peru, even studying Spanish, and together you'd have a superb project that would teach your son how to do something really well and have as much fun planning as doing!

I wish you and those you love the choice of joy for now, for 2009, for evermore.
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Old 01-02-2009, 06:33 AM
Location: Oxford, OH
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We have been twice to Peru and stayed in Arequipa and enjoyed it. We have friends who are missionaries and have been on two dental mission trips there. We went to Cusco and stayed at a wonderful french B&B. The gorge was amazing and we watched the Condors. I've always wanted to go to Machu Picchu and maybe someday I will get there. We found the people friendly and helpful but knowing some Spanish is important. We were very careful what we ate!
Allforcats~ excellent post
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Old 01-02-2009, 10:43 AM
Location: Back in Dallas Texas where I belong!
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Allforcats thanks for the info ... it is all very overwhelming ... my son has heard they are going to close the ruins off and wants to go before they do!
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Old 01-02-2009, 12:44 PM
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
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Txhawk, you're very welcome. Over a year ago when I first got the mad notion to go to Machu Picchu, I knew ZERO, ZIP about Peru and Machu Picchu. I thought, "Where do I begin??" So I spent hours daily for months Googling and studying on the internet, as though it were a college course, and became in a small way a bit of a scholar about Peru, the Inca, the country's history, metaphysical history, cultures, varieties, food, lodgings, geography, and a whole lot more.

So what I'm suggesting is that anyone can do that because the internet gets better and better each day. Go for it! Together with your son why not write down your study goals, divvy them up, and the two of you can accomplish twice as much in half the time, and teach each other! Isn't that neat?! You can use all your professional analytical skills, your judgment skills, your detail skills, and your ability to find pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and fit them together into an understandable whole. What fun!

Words have meaning, don't you agree? The word "ruins" connotes something dead, destroyed, right? Machu Picchu is an historical site, or an archaeological site, or a sacred site, and is quite intact and understandable.

Shut down Machu Picchu? Not on your life! Peru is a poor country. Their only significant sources of foreign income are tourism, textiles and some mining. Most of the world thinks the only thing in Peru is Machu Picchu, so going to Machu Picchu is by far the main reason most foreign tourists go to Peru. The government leaders in Lima will close Machu Picchu right after they allow their entire government to be taken over by the revolutionaries. Meaning never, since the income generated by the existence of the site is the only truly dependable source of reliable foreign income for Peru.

Machu Picchu is made inaccessible once in a while, by climate, for a short period of time. The site is up in the cloud forest in the Andes, which is the high elevation at the beginning of the Amazonian rain forest. The site is just above the Urubamba River which is the major start of the Amazon. So there are heavy torrents of rain during the long winter each year, causing washouts of roads, bridges, railroad ties and other manmade structures which then have to be repaired by local or national governmental agencies, who often fight about whose responsibility "x" problem is.

Also, since Peru is in the volcanic Andes (the southern extension of the Canadian and American Rocky Mountain Range), it experiences fairly frequent earthquakes, which are usually mild but sometimes do dislodge things. So those disruptions have to be worked on to make them safe again for human transit to Machu Picchu.

If such events impair safety near Machu Picchu, the site is made inaccessible until safety is restored. By the way, it has never been Machu Picchu, or other Inca structures, that crumbles in earthquakes or torrents of rain. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the technology of the Inca resulted in structures which are almost completely untouched by centuries of earthquakes or rain, and are breathtaking to look at -- unlike the technology of the Spanish and of modern people. Inca structures just go right on ticking'

As more and more people learn about experiencing the amazing atmosphere of Machu Picchu, more tourists walk the steps, touch the stones, add the weight of their bodies, leave trash, etc. The Peruvian government keeps toying with closing off access to the site, to allow no one to go there forever, or for a period of years. And then they figure the national budget minus all the income and tax sources caused by people visiting Machu Picchu. And they quickly change their minds. What they probably will do, and should do, is limit the number of persons per day who are allowed there. That would make total sense.

I love what driftwoodpoint said: "We found the people friendly and helpful but knowing some Spanish is important." I agree completely -- warm, friendly, welcoming, even sweet people, whether they are speaking Spanish or Quechua, the language of the mountains. These people exude the kind of energy you automatically want to bow and say "Namaste" to, y'know? I made a few long-time friends there including one Indian woman.

So, again, would you like some suggestions for websites where you and your son could start researching? Happy new year!!

Last edited by allforcats; 01-02-2009 at 12:52 PM..
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Old 01-02-2009, 02:13 PM
Location: Houston
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I am also planning to go there with my wife, who hasn't been there, probably around May this year. I've been checking for tours too and they are not what I'm looking for and quite expensive, my mother who lives in Lima gave me the name of another travel agency but I forgot it's name and she told me that she was going to give me the name of a good LOCAL agency whenever she can and I'll let you know.
For how long are you planning to stay there? I've been to Machu Picchu 3 times, the first time I got altitude sickness maybe because I was only 13 and I didn't rest at all the first day as recommended. My nephew also got sick when he went a year ago. The first day take things lightly and rest at the hotel most of the day, the top hotels there have oxygen that can bring to your room if you start feeling sick.
The second time I went first to Arequipa that is right in between sea level and Cusco in altitute, that might have helped me get used to the lack of oxygen since didn't have any problems whatsoever with the altitude later in Cusco. It might be a good option if you have enough time. There are tours that go Lima->Arequipa->Cusco/Macchu Picchu in that order but they are 12 or more days long, way too much for me and my wife who work full time.

I agree that Machu Picchu is never going to be closed permanently, although I remember several times hearing in the Peruvian news about how much the site is been destroyed by the huge number of tourists and they were planning to close it for a few months per year to mantain it propertly.
I also heard a nutcase every now and then saying that the site should be closed for anyone NOT peruvian, but I agree that the Cusco region would take a huge hit if this ever happens, definitely not the whole country though, Peru is one of the top producers of silver and gold in the world and export produce and grains, what they lack is heavy industry hence their third would country status.
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Old 01-02-2009, 02:49 PM
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
3,871 posts, read 15,514,471 times
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For local travel agents, based in Lima and Cusco, you might check these out:


PERU FOR LESS -- These folks I tried to work with; prices are lower than some other agencies; I finally gave up because I had to follow their every move and keep changing all the mistakes they kept making. But they are local, have many English-speakers on staff, and have lower prices than some others (I think you get what you pay for...)
Peru Vacations, Machu Picchu Tours, Peru Travel, Trips to Peru

ARACARI -- This is the agency I used, perhaps the best in Peru. Helped me immensely day by day as I was creating the adventure by email with them. Everyone speaks English. Saved my butt bigtime when I got really sick.
Luxury Travel Services - Peru Bolivia Ecuador - Aracari
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Old 01-03-2009, 09:23 PM
Location: Back in Dallas Texas where I belong!
269 posts, read 835,016 times
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Thanks again for the info, so with the altitude issues, does anyone know how that affects asthma patients? My son does have asthma and now I'm kinda worried about that ... on top of everything else.
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Old 01-03-2009, 10:07 PM
Location: Cosmic Consciousness
3,871 posts, read 15,514,471 times
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You can Google altitude sickness and learn all there is to know. Altitude sickness causes many different effects because the higher you go, the less oxygen is in the air, which affects absolutely every organ, muscle, nerve, blood vessel, etc.

I have asthma, but very mildly.
The fundamental about asthma is that it causes greater or lesser closing of the air passages. So the person has decreased ability to breathe in sufficient oxygen.

Ever see programs about people climbing Mt. Everest? Notice they are breathing very heavily? They can't speak? That's because there's so little oxygen in the air high up, and the body has to breathe harder and harder to intake enough oxygen to put into the bloodstream.

Don't take him to high altitudes (over 3,000ft above sea level) without having a consultation appointment with his pulmonary physician. That person knows best what your son's pulmonary system can handle.
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Old 05-04-2009, 12:36 AM
800 posts, read 3,007,179 times
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Originally Posted by txhawk36 View Post
Hi, can anyone give me any advise on where to start? It would be me and my 12 year old son. We would want to go to Machu Piccua. The packaged places cost thousands of dollars per person, is there a less expensive way, yet safe for us to travel?
Try Outdoor Adventure Travel - Research and Book an Adventure Holiday from G.A.P Adventures I've taken a few of their trips and they've seemed more reasonably priced than others.
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